Suddenly, this odd house that no one wanted was hot property
Diary of a househunter: At first we were top bidders. But another bid came in. Then another
‘Spending a summer’s evening with friends in their small but pretty city garden got us thinking about the house again.’ Photograph: Getty
Searching for a home to buy is a lot like online dating. You swipe again and again on the property apps until you find something that takes your fancy. You make a date to take a look in person, and if you can see a potential future, you might make another. When things get serious, you make an offer. But they might have other suitors, so you go to war, trying to outbid your rivals in an effort to win over your new-found love.
But no matter how hard you’ve fallen, there’s usually a limit to how much you can give. If someone else is willing to offer more, you must concede, and get back on the apps again.
The asking price was at the very top end of our already extended budget
Mid-summer, after half a year searching for a house in an overheated market, we were getting a bit desperate. And much like you might after a series of unsuccessful dating experiences, we started revisiting old toads we had previously overlooked.
One such property had come on the market back in early May. The asking price was at the very top end of our already extended budget, and with the amount of work it needed, we came away from the first viewing laughing at how overpriced we thought it was.
We weren’t the only ones. A fellow house-hunting colleague, who had been to see it the day before, described it as “odd as hell”. It had a number of quirky features internally that could be easily changed, but the big drawback was the tiny back yard, which contained the house’s only toilet, walled in by a lot of rusty barbed wire, and overlooked by a towering block of apartments.
About a month later, we emailed the agent to ask about the current bid. No offers. Suddenly, the house’s off-putting oddities seemed more like appealing quirks, and we arranged another viewing. But second-time round, we were still unconvinced.
With some clever planting we could create more privacy
Spending a summer’s evening with friends in their small but pretty city garden got us thinking about the house again. If we knocked the galley kitchen and brought it into the dining room, we’d have a much bigger outdoor area. With some clever planting we could create more privacy, and obscure all that broken glass, rusty corrugated iron and barbed wire from view.
There was just one offer, €70,000 below the asking price. With the market as hot as it is in Dublin right now, this is unheard of. And so the obsessing began.
We sketched floor plans. We even started a Pinterest board, filled with pics of small gardens, bi-folding doors (to bring the outside in, don’t you know – or in this case, the inside out), even colour schemes we liked. We got way ahead of ourselves.
At the next viewing, I marvelled at the high ceilings and long hallway I hadn’t appreciated before. The view from the back windows didn’t bother me at all anymore.
Two more bidders appeared on the scene and the highest offer had risen, but not enough to deter us. Within an hour of emailing the agent with our first bid, a bird pooed on me in the street. I’m not at all superstitious, but this was a sign, I was sure.
We were the top bidders for four days. But then another bid came in. And another. Suddenly the house no one wanted, that had been languishing on the market for three months, was hot property.
There are two words that are sure to strike fear into the hearts of any house-hunter: cash buyer. We were up against two of them. The property was an attractive investment. A single bed for a student in a shared room across the street was advertised online for €645 per month.
The thought of someone else getting it for just €1,000 over what we were willing to spend was devastating
Two bidders withdrew, leaving just us and one investor. For every bid we placed, they went €1,000 higher. It was exhausting. We pushed ourselves. And pushed a little more. The thought of someone else getting it for just €1,000 over what we were willing to spend was devastating, but we had to draw the line somewhere. Three weeks after we entered the fray, as bidding approached the original asking price, we dropped out.
Was it a lucky escape? Looking back on it now, it probably was. But at the time, it was devastating. We had broken the golden rule of house hunting, which anyone who has been through the process will press on you: do not get emotionally attached.
But how can you not dream about living your life in a house when you are considering spending your life-savings in order to make it yours? How could you hand over so much money for something you didn’t love?
It wasn’t only the thought of losing the house we had fallen for that broke me. It was also the prospect of starting all over again from scratch, having already viewed at least 50 properties.
The following week, we went to see a smaller house in another area. It had a long sunny garden, leading onto a communal green with swings hanging from the trees. The life I began imagining in this house was very different to the city home we had been bidding on, but there was definite potential. We were back in the game.